Travel Advice To Laos
If you are planning to visit Laos, here are some advice to help you avoid trouble.
A Visa is required to enter Laos and this should be applied for at least 5 working days prior to departure. However, it is now also possible to collect visas on arrival at Vientiane International Airport, Luang Prabang International Airport and the Friendship Bridge between Laos and Thailand without prior authorisation. This costs 75AUD for single entry or 90AUD for double entry and requires the filling in of an application form and one passport size photo.
The airport tax in Laos for International Flights is 10USD and Domestic Flights is 1USD.
Offices and museums are usually open from Monday to Friday from 8:00am until 4:00pm and often close for lunch between 12:00am and 2:00pm. Shops open from Monday to Saturday between 9:00am and 5:00pm and some also open on Sunday.
Laos has a nationwide curfew of 12am so try to avoid going out or travel late at night. People travelling at night can be searched, detained and possibly fined by authorities if they cannot present suitable identification. Travellers should comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks.
Avoid carrying large sums of money and keep valuables, including passports in a secure place. There are no ATM machines in Laos, but major hotels and banks in Laos accept credit cards and travellers cheques.
Laos has a one party system. Do not accuse the government or talk about politics at any time.
Respect the language, history, tradition and culture.
Non-marital sexual relationships aren't permitted under Lao law.
You must inform Lao authorities for marriage or engagement. Penalties for failing to register a relationship range from 500USD - 5,000USD and may also involve imprisonment.
Penalties for drug offences in Laos are severe, including the death penalty for trafficking. Travellers should exercise extreme caution to avoid any perceived association with drug trafficking or use. Other serious crimes such as rape, murder and treason, also include the death penalty.
Photographing or visiting military sites is prohibited and may result in arrest or detention. To be on the safe side, please ask for permission if you want to take photos at places where you are not sure if it is permitted.
Unexploded ordnance and mines remain a problem in some parts of the countryside, particularly in Xieng Khouang province (location of The Plain of Jars) and the Lao-Vietnamese border areas along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Travellers should only walk along marked areas or common tourist areas, otherwise it can be dangerous.
The rainy season in Laos is between May to November when seasonal flooding may occur in some areas near the river. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) is not a problem in Laos, unlike neighbouring countries in the region. There is no risk to a very low risk of bird flu infection in Laos but travellers should still discuss the risks with their doctor as part of their routine pre-travel health checks.
No vaccinations are required to go to Laos except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track.
It is not advisable to drink tap water in Laos but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. Ice in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas.
In summary, Laos is a safe country.
[ Edit: No promos allowed ]
Thanks for this info. I didn't know there aren't any ATM's.....don't suppose you can advise me on cash in Loas - do they take £GBP or $USD for when i first arrive and haven't had the opportunity to find someone to change it to local currency?
There are ATMs in Laos, but not many. I visited Vientiane in November and was told that there was only one atm, however on my journey from the friendship bridge to the town centre I spotted maybe three or four. So just in case of an emergency there are atms, but still bring cash/credit card because atms are sparse in Laos.
The currency situation in Laos is really confusing, Laos currency is KIP, but they accept American dollars everywhere and most places will accept Thai baht. I would just bring $$'s that way you'll have no promblems.
That ATM situation is pretty poor. Do they have any in luang prabang? if not how much money would you recommend i withdraw from thailand, if i am spending approximately two weeks in luang prabang and vang vieng before i visit vientianne?
also can you get a visa at the thailand border huay xai?
thanks for all that info.
There were still no ATMs anywhere outside of Vientine when i was last there in May. even there, i only know of 5, and 3 only worked intermitently (in 2 cases, i think this was as much because Laotians hadn't got the concept entirely and had managed to break them by somehow jamming their card. This happened once to the guy in front of me in the queue). However, most travel agents and hotels will offer you cash advances with credit cards at decent rates, and there are a couple of official money change places as well which will do the same.
Dollars are officially illegal for anything except Plane tickets, although all prices will be displayed in dollars, not Kip. In Vientienne and in the south, Thai Bhat can often be used, but not always, and up North they are less accepted. There is no such thing as a large Lao note (i never saw more than a 20,000 - 2USD - and i often ended up with thick wads of 1,000KIP notes), so you can easily end up with a huge wad of notes quite easily.
USD are definitely useful to carry, but make sure you have a stack of small denomination crisp new bills, not 20s/50s/100s (change is unlikely...) or old/marked/torn ones. And if you have any KIP left, get rid of them or excahnge them for USD before you leave the country, as they can be very hard to get rid of otherwise, except if you meet a travelled heading in the opposite direction.
Wow that 1st post certainly sounds like a govt announcement! Way to make Lao sound unfun!
its true that there is a distinct lack of international atm facilities - with the only one I encountered being in Vientienne... The problem there was it only let you withdraw about USD50 at a time, which your bank then charged you for... anyway, i would highly recommend taking either wads of baht (as everyone is willing to accept or exchange it) or low denomination USD - as most things are priced in the dollar (10,000 KIP = 1 USD when I was there in November!)
In response to jennygro, im almost certain you can get a visa at huay xai border but i came the other way... Lao was ridiculously cheap when i was there - accom no more than USD5 a nite, great noodle soup for 80cents, beerlao (MMMMMMMM!) for about 80 cents also! In fact, we were feeling hard done by when paying 1USD for beers on the river in vang vieng...where tubing is the greatest thing ive done in a while (cost about 7USD i think for all day!)
There is an ATM and exchange booth on the thai side of the friendship bridge crossing, so I'd recommend getting some Baht there b4 entering Lao...
feel free to PM me if you want more info, as I spent a few weeks in the north and loved it!
[ Edit: Edited on Feb 26, 2007, at 10:08 PM by bennyevo ]
There are also a couple ATMs on the main street in Luang Prabang.
That initial posting makes Laos to sound like a totally cold, uninviting country- It is far from that. I was in Laos for almost 5 weeks and found it to be the highlight of my SE Asia trip- Beautiful country, friendliest people I met on my trip, and never had any problems...